Cover of Book One: Descent
"The president of the United States is dead. He was murdered in the morning sunlight by a four-year-old boy...
- Opening line of Book One: Descent
is a trilogy of science fiction techno-thriller novels written by J.C. Hutchins. They are, in order: Book One: Descent
, Book Two: Deceit
and Book Three: Destruction
. The novels were originally released as podiobooks
—free serialised audio books—over the course of 2006 and 2007 to critical acclaim and record download numbers. In 2008, Hutchins oversaw 7th Son: Obsidian
, an anthology of short stories set in the 7th Son
universe and written by other noteworthy podiobook authors. In 2009, Descent
was picked up for publication by St. Martin's Press and released in late October. A short anthology of prequel stories entitled 7th Son: 7 Days
was released in October, preceding the release of the Descent
print edition. Hutchins also recorded a new podcast of Descent
that reflects the edits made between the original podcast and the print edition.Descent
begins with the assassination of U.S. President Hank 'Gator' Griffin by Jessie Fowler, a four-year-old boy. Weeks later, seven strangers from across the United States are abducted by government agents. John is a struggling musician; Dr. Mike is a criminal profiler who hunts serial killers; Jack is a renowned geneticist; Michael is a captain in the Marine Corps; Jay ("Jonathan" in the original version) works for the United Nations; Fr. Thomas is a priest well-known for his youth aid efforts; and Kilroy 2.0 is a psychotic computer hacker with a cult of online followers.
At the secret underground headquarters of the 7th Son Project, under the command of General Hill and Dr. Kleinman, these seven men meet for the first time. Yet, they all look identical. They have the exact same memories of growing up an only child until being orphaned at age 13. They are all named John Michael Smith. These seven men are the product of the 7th Son experiment: they are clones, rapidly grown in pods to physical adolescence, uploaded with the exact same childhood memories and steered towards different career paths.
The so-called Beta Clones have been assembled because the prime suspect in the President's assassination is the man they were cloned from, John Alpha. Once believed to have committed suicide, John Alpha is now running free in the world. He is capable of reproducing 7th Son's advanced cloning and memory manipulation technology and has an endgame no one can predict—except, possibly, the Betas.
For the Orson Scott Card
novel Seventh Son
, see The Tales of Alvin Maker
The novels provide examples of:
- Action Survivor: Michael is a trained soldier and Fr. Thomas is a black belt in karate, but the rest of the Betas spend the trilogy hanging on by the skin of their teeth.
- Axe Crazy: Doug Devlin, a spook-turned-mercenary who gets a new lease on life thanks to John Alpha. Several new leases, in fact.
- Chekhov's Skill: The Betas all have one, by the design of Hill and Kleinman. John Alpha turns them to his advantage.
- Cloning Blues: Fr. Thomas fears that he has no soul.
- Cloning Gambit: John Alpha uses clones to further his Evil Plan.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Kilroy 2.0 hears the walls talking to him.
- Dead Person Impersonation: Hill and Kleinman feared that John Alpha had killed one of the clones and taken their identity. When they realise the potential of NEPTH-charge, this takes on a new dimension.
- Didn't See That Coming: As John puts it "coloring outside the lines". Alpha and Bregner didn't think that Jack would escape his deathtrap, that Kilroy 2.0 had an unknown ally, or that his father would kill his psi-jacked ex-wife before she could gas everyone at 7th Son.
- Fake Memories: Everything the Betas remember before age 16 was copied from John Alpha and uploaded once their clone bodies had fully gestated.
- Gambit Roulette: John Alpha's plan has been years in the making.
- It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: When John Alpha was 13, Hill and Kleinmen brought him in on the experiment and taught him the secrets of 7th Son's technology, hoping he would become a project leader.
- Kansas City Shuffle: Everyone is trying to figure out how to stop John Alpha's Roaring Rampage of Revenge so they don't notice the real goal.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: With eight separate characters named John Michael Smith, it's necessary. Hence: John, Jack, Jay, Dr. Mike, Michael, Fr. Thomas, Kilroy 2.0 and John Alpha.
- Re Cut: The print edition, free PDF and remastered podcast of Descent is significantly different to the original podcast. For example, "Jonathan" was renamed "Jay" to avoid confusion, and one character's villainous reveal occurs an entire book earlier. It also includes a Mythology Gag of having Father Thomas and John switching rolls later in the novel. John even says he was thinking about doing it before his brother volunteered.
- Recycled Premise: Inverted. 7th Son predates Dollhouse, thank you very much.
- Took a Level in Badass: Kilroy 3.0 is what Kilroy 2.0 could have been if he wasn't crazy.
- Shout-Out: Hutchins is well known for his "rivalry" with fellow Podio Books writer, Scott Sigler. If you've read/listened to Sigler's Infected series, you might recognize a certain Lt. Dawsey who bears a "striking resemblance to a certain former college linebacker".
- Showing Off the New Body: Frequently, whenever a memory totality is uploaded.
J.C. Hutchins himself provides examples of:
- Shameless Self-Promoter: Until Descent was picked up by St. Martin's Press, the only publicity that Hutchins could get was whatever he could drum up himself and word of mouth. He continued to be the alpha of Shameless Self-Promoter even after St. Martin's picked up and published Descent, hence the release of the 7th Son: 7 Days prequel and many other promotions to ramp up excitement.
- Podiobooks: One of the best and most well-known examples.